10/13/2012 4:56PM

Keeneland: Dayatthespa leads start to finish in Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup

Barbara D. Livingston
Javier Castellano guides Dayatthespa to a front-running score in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – With Javier Castellano doling out her speed in precise increments, Dayatthespa led past every pole to register her fifth straight win and give trainer Chad Brown another major grass victory Saturday in the 29th running of the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, the sixth and final Grade 1 race of the Keeneland fall meet.

Dayatthespa, a New York-bred daughter of City Zip, returned $8.60 as second choice in a field of eight 3-year-old fillies. After clearing the field on the first turn of the 1 1/8-mile race, she was never seriously threatened, with Centre Court, her closest race-long pursuer, finishing two lengths behind her and another half-length before Better Lucky.

Over a firm turf, Dayatthespa set fractions of 24.52, 49.11, and 1:13.96 before gliding home in a final clocking of 1:48.99.

“Handicapping the race, I didn’t see a lot of speed,” said Castellano. “I thought the pace would be modest today. I took advantage of it with my filly. I think it worked out great. Turning for home, at the quarter pole, I asked her, and she just took off. A hand ride.”

Samitar, also trained by Brown, finished just a nose behind Better Lucky in fourth, while Stephanie’s Kitten, the 2-1 favorite, had no mishap in finishing sixth.

After winning 1 of 3 starts last year at 2, Dayatthespa, is unbeaten in all five starts this year, with her last two victories coming in the Grade 3 Appalachian here in April and the Riskaverse at Saratoga on Aug. 31. She is owned by Jerry Frankel, Ronald Frankel, Steve Laymon, and Bradley Thoroughbreds.

“I think her best days are ahead of her,” said Brown.

As to whether the filly might run back in 20 days in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, he said, “I’ll talk it over with the partners, but coming into the race, that’s not what we were thinking.”

For Brown, the 34-year-old former assistant to the late Bobby Frankel, it was his fourth stakes victory with a turf horse in less than a week. He won the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes here Sunday with Balance the Books, then followed it up Monday at Belmont by taking the Pilgrim with Noble Tune and the Miss Grillo with Watsdachances.

The $2 exacta (8-4) paid $40.80; the $1 trifecta (8-4-1) returned $173.40; and the dime superfecta (8-4-1-7) was worth $70.26.

An ontrack throng of 28,337 turned out on an afternoon that began with bright sun but grew cloudier as it went on.